My Heart Breaks For Joy: a Small Zen Meditation on Christmas Day

My Heart Breaks For Joy: a Small Zen Meditation on Christmas Day December 25, 2017

Holy Family




Ah, Christmas in Long Beach in 2017.

This morning Jan & I had coffee and breakfast, then exchanged small tokens of our love, after which we took a stroll down on the beach. As it was a bracing 48 degrees Fahrenheit, I put on socks, a vest and a light jacket. Jan, who is made of tougher stuff disdained the socks, but did put on a sweatshirt.

There was a bit of fog this morning, Catalina completely lost in the mist, but it was nice hearing the fog horn coming from somewhere on the other side of the Queen Mary.

There were the odd joggers, people walking along singly and in pairs, a handful of troubled souls lost in their own private worlds shuffling along, pigeons, seagulls, a pelican, even a hummingbird surprisingly at rest on a branch on the bluff. We count cats on our walks, and saw nine, an unusually nice number.

In a bit we’ll return to prepping for Christmas dinner which Jan & I are making, and which later we’ll be sharing with family across the metroplex in Tujunga.

But, in the moment I find myself thinking of my life.

I cannot believe how lucky I am. Other than being born male and from the dominant ethnic group into an astonishingly affluent culture my beginning lacked much people might consider advantages. In our culture I began pretty close to the bottom of things. My father an alcoholic and occasional petty criminal. My mother along for the ride, but afraid. Given the givens, frankly, I shouldn’t be where I am. A couple of fortunate decisions without the benefit of adequate information. Some mistakes of judgment and action that could have had horrific consequences, didn’t. And. Several hands stretched out when they need not have been. And with that here I am.

And, it can all turn in a moment. It will turn. The Buddha spoke the truth. All things made of parts can and will fall apart. I feel that in my bones and the aches in my joints.

And. Such is the wild throw of the dice that is the play of life and death. As that old Daoist story goes with each turn of fortune the old farmer’s words echo in my heart, “We’ll see…” Here we are. And in a moment, change.

And, well, here we are…

Solstice, Rohatsu, Hanukkah, and now Christmas. Christmas Day. My favorite of the Christian holy days.

But, all the holidays of this moment share some deep connections with the turning of the earth and that season of shortest days and longest nights. Every turn into the darkness shows a moment of light. Solstice. Rohatsu. Hanukkah. Christmas.

And, yes, the other direction, as well. The turning of the great wheel. Life and death. All of it cheek by jowl. The opposite of the moment is contained like that little eye in each tadpole that makes the great tai chi, the mysterious yin yang. The great matter.

And my years of Zen practice guide me into the great matter, not away from it. It is a way of witnessing as well as doing. Both. And in the mix of those two things, something precious and true is revealed.

It passes. All things pass.

And, it is beautiful. And it is sad. But even together, even with the sadness, it is so beautiful.

My heart breaks from joy.


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